Sunday, June 19, 2022

It's Father's Day

and I don't have a father. I mean, I did have a father, but he died when I was barely out of first grade, so I didn't know him. I had a stepfather for seven years, but he wasn't what anyone would've called a father. I don't think of him on Father's Day. 

On Father's Day I think of other fathers. My husband, for example, who is an excellent father. And his father; also, a good parent. Being raised by a good parent probably leads to good parenting, but it's not a prerequisite. Thank goodness, or else how many of us would be in trouble?

As a kid who did not have a father, I was curious about them. Friends' dads. Neighbors. Uncles. But for the most part I didn't give them much of a thought. And then Father's Day would roll around and it was time to make a Father's Day card in school and you'd see commercials of men grilling and fishing and how you should buy your dear old dad a tie or cologne or whatever. For me those commercials may as well have been talking about space aliens. And sometimes it hurt to be reminded of what I didn't have and would never have. 

All of this is to say that I try to be mindful when it comes to kids and whatever their particular family arrangement is. But the other day my mindfulness went out the window. What happened is I was working at the desk at the library and a mom came in with two kids. 

This one, she said, gesturing at a boy around twelve years old and happily bookish-looking, isn't mine. He's a neighbor and he wants to check out books today but he doesn't have a library card. 

I sat up straight, eager, of course, to help, but explaining the unfortunate but necessary rule that while minors may apply for a library card, they've got to have a parent or guardian with them to finalize the deal. 

The kid's shoulders slumped. 

But hey, I said brightly, you can ask your mom to come back with you later, or tomorrow. Fill out the application online. It takes like, three minutes. 

And then I had a better idea. Maybe, I said to the kid, you have a library card already? Your mom might've gotten one for you when you were little? I can check the system for you. 

The kid looked anxious, but hopeful. He gave me his name and birthdate, and sure enough, there he was in the system! I don't know who was more excited about it, him or me. Come back up to the desk, I told him, when you've got your books and I'll check you out. You can ask your mom for the card when you get home and if she's not sure where it is, the next time you come in, I'll give you a new one. 

He nodded and headed down to the youth section, but the neighbor mother lingered at the desk. I thought she was going to compliment me on my quick thinking and expert management of the problem, but instead, she leaned in a little and lowered her voice. 

Not a big deal, she said, and he never would've told you himself, but he doesn't have a mom. He's got two dads. 

Oh! I said. 

Not a big deal, the woman said again. Just thought you might want to know. 

I do, I said. Thanks! But internally I was still wincing, scrambling back through the earlier conversation, all of my mentions of mom and why had I made that assumption and here we are at the library, a place that strives to be safe and welcoming to all.

When the boy came up later to check out his books, I was still feeling like a ding dong. I didn't want to say Dad this time or Dads because I didn't want him to know what his neighbor had shared with me. Twelve-year-olds, I know from experience, don't feel comfortable learning that adults have been chatting behind their backs, and who can blame them. Instead, I said what I say to all of the patrons who stop by my desk. 

Have a nice day!  

And I do hope he had one, has one. Odds are, he will. A kid with two dads on Father's Day. My childhood self would've been over the moon. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Please This Is a Wedding Dress: A Drama in Three Acts

Act One 

It's Tuesday and my errand for the day is: mail my daughter's wedding dress to her. A few months ago she visited and tried the dress on for me (Beautiful!--SHE'S beautiful, the dress is beautiful! Exciting!--I can't believe she's getting married in four months! But also, sad-ish--my little girl is all grown up!) The dress fits perfectly and she wants me to store it in our house, which I am happy to do, 

but then, she changes her mind and would like for me to mail it back. I am fine with this, although, a tad anxious, not totally confident in the US Postal Service, and further complicating matters, the Ship and Sell place I'd been using to return Returns, recently lost a Return. So, what to do? 

I fold my daughter's dress and place it carefully back into the box and head out to tackle the task, choosing the nearest package-mailing place, which I will henceforth call: the POO-PEE-PESS Store.

Act Two

The guy at the counter is young-ish and bored-ish, but dutifully takes the box and asks me where I'd like it mailed. While I'm reeling off the address, I am not-watching and watching as he sticks three rather small pieces of tape around the box. 

(A word about this box: It opens on three sides. The dress is accordian-ed into it and threatening any moment to poof out. Will three small pieces of tape keep the thing safely secured? I don't know!) 

"Excuse me," I say, "could you add a little more tape to that?"

The guy looks at me boredishly. "It's got enough tape on it." He moves on with the transaction and I fiddle with my credit card, popping it into the machine as I eye the box and the very small amount of tape again. If I had done this at home, I would've strapped half a roll of tape around the box and maybe that would've been overkill, but really, is there something between half a roll and three small pieces that might be... better? 

"Okay," I say, and I chuckle a little to show the guy that I am cool and not possibly, a nutjob. "But could you just humor me and add a few more pieces of tape? This is an important package." 

The guy looks at the box, a hint of an eye-roll threatening. "Trust me," he says. "There's enough tape." 

"Yeah," I say, chuckling again, but more manically this time. "I'm asking you to add more tape. Please. This is a wedding dress." 

He looks at me. I look at him. He shakes his head. No. 

My heart is banging. Blood is sloshing around inside my skull. I am imagining the dress spilling out of the box on a roadway, its copious lace tearing and unraveling. I won't be able to sleep tonight, I won't be able to live with myself if I don't get THIS GUY to put more tape on the box. 

For a moment I am in the library facing the woman who wanted me to help her with her tax forms and I kept trying to explain to her why I couldn't do that and she kept growing more upset and why wouldn't I help her and finally I walked away and sent the Circ Manager Who Gets Paid the Big Bucks to deal with situations like that. 

But there is no one else working in this POO PEE PESS Store!!

Act Three

I grab a roll of tape off the wall and not chuckling at all, I tell the guy I am buying this tape and I am taping the box myself. He stands aside as I do that, then we complete the transaction, with an additional eight dollars and eighty one cents for the tape. 

I pay for it gladly and burst out of the POO PEE PESS Store sweating and jittery, only thinking when I get into my car that I should've taken the box back from the guy, told him to F off and gone some place else, but what are you gonna do. Sometimes we are at the mercy of the world, the bored, the disinterested, the unwavering, the just-doing-their-jobs,

and okay, maybe I should've been kinder to that lady at the library who didn't understand why I was the last person in the world who should be giving tax advice to anyone. Even so, I could've been kinder, I truly could have been, and next time I will be, I promise, I PROMISE, but in the meantime, let the tape hold.

Please. Let the tape hold. 

The End

PS: It did. 


Sunday, June 5, 2022

Nine things I didn't know until this month (and one thing I still don't know)

1. You can pour boiling water directly over freshly pulled leaves from the garden (mint, sage, raspberry leaves) and make a very tasty cup of tea.

2. Never try to help an impatient crochety patron on the computer who is trying to interpret a complex tax form and English is her second language and you are wearing a mask and your body decides at that very moment to have a hot flash. 

3. Butterfly bushes are bad and you should never plant them, and okay, you THINK you're planting a bush that will attract butterflies, which sounds like a good idea, but then the butterflies will lay eggs on the plant, and caterpillars will hatch, but they can't eat the butterfly bush leaves, so you've pretty much stunted their entire lifecycle, and what kind of cruel joke is this nonsense?! 

4. Instead, plant Butterfly Weed. 

5. Never repost a heart-wrenching poem written by a grieving mother on your social media account without first checking to see if the poem was actually written by the person you thought wrote it. 

6. Addendum: Never repost anything on your social media account.   

7. If you sign up to attend a special program at the library on How to Turn Your Backyard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat, you will show up to the event and find to your surprise and amusement that every single person in the audience is, like you, a middle-aged white woman who has quit coloring her hair. 

8. Deep fried deviled eggs at the Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky. I know. I know. It sounds... gross. It did to me too. But, trust me. So freaking good.

9. When you stumble across an urban farm (down the street from the Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky) and you excitedly strike up a conversation with the farmer about pollinator gardens and seed exchanges and you'll think you've found a kindred spirit, another gung ho Let's grow herbs and attract bees and make our own tea, but realize very quickly that this guy is next level serious when he tells you that this is no hobby for him (like it is for you, is the implication) but that the entire global food chain is one step away from collapsing, and oh my God, I need to get home right now and plant more food in my backyard.

1. How to poach an egg. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The marjoram in the garden

turned out to be tarragon. For three years now I've had it growing, the only plant I took with me from our old house, and the first one I planted in the freshly filled up koi-pond-turned-herb-garden. 

Marjoram, if you don't know it, (and I didn't) is kind of like oregano. Rub a leaf between your fingers and you'll get a pizza-y vibe. (I never rubbed a leaf between my fingers.) Also, I never knew how to pronounce the word until yesterday, right before I yanked the plant out of the ground by the roots. I had been putting the emphasis on the second syllable-- marJORam. But actually, it's pronounced MARjoram, which makes me think of margarine, and another mark against it in my opinion. 

But this is entirely unfair, considering that it was not marjoram that I had growing in my garden for three years, but tarragon. (Pronounced TARragon). Tarragon, if you don't know it (and I didn't) is widely used in French cuisine. You will need it, for example, if you want to make a Béarnaise sauce. According to the New York Times Cooking Section, a good Béarnaise requires one tablespoon plus one teaspoon of tarragon leaves. If this is accurate, and why wouldn't it be, I could've made several oil-sized drums of Béarnaise sauce with the amount of tarragon leaves I had. 

For the record I am not a huge Béarnaise sauce fan. So, why did I have tarragon growing in my garden? Good question! What happened was, we were moving and everything was rush rush rush and I grabbed the plant to take with me to the new house, and then there was a global pandemic, and I was deconstructing the koi pond in the backyard to keep my mind off mass sickness and death and I planted the plant I thought was marjoram. 

Cut to: it took off like a weed, and the other day I was looking at it, really looking at it, and really thinking, why do I have so much marJORam (mispronouncing it in my head) and what can I use this for in my cooking, and when I looked it up in an herb cookbook, I saw a picture of marjoram and it registered for the first time that THIS plant was not marjoram. 

It's tarragon, and I don't want or need this much of it and over the past few days it's pretty clear that I have thought entirely too much about it. But this beats thinking about what I really don't want to think about: 

how when I was teaching fourth and fifth graders twenty years ago, we had a faculty meeting about school shooters and the protocol for a lockdown was for the teacher to run to the classroom door and pull any stray children in the hallway into the room before locking the door, and if a child happened to be left out in the hallway, alone, 

you have to leave them there, instruct them to hide in the restroom and squat on the toilet or something, good luck, and I couldn't stop picturing it, my children your children, finding themselves alone in the hallway on the other side of the locked classroom door. My mind wouldn't picture it any further, 

the part where there was a crazed gunman roaming the school, blowing children's heads off, but today I am picturing it, despite all of my best efforts, the children in the classrooms or outside the classrooms, the abject terror on both sides of the door, and for a moment

I want you to picture it too, this horror that happens over and over again in our country. Sit with it, squirm with it, hold it for longer than four days, and let's do something about it this time.


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Socks of Many Colors

Last night we were talking about book banning and how maybe we should listen to the people who are afraid of books AND WHAT SCARY STUFF their children might be exposed to, and therefore, they must dictate what books should not be allowed for the rest of us.  

We were at a party and it was like we weren't in a pandemic, nobody wearing masks and a packed house and everyone touching the same serving spoons, but oh my God the food was so good and all of us happy and chatty and casually dressed up, the bright lights and noise from the house spilling out into the dark night, the clink of glasses, the colorful abundance of the dessert table, and how have we gone so long without parties? 

We were sitting on the sun porch and there was adequate ventilation, but still, I could sniff a whiff of covid in the air. Or maybe not. We keep dodging bullets. Taking all of the precautions and sifting through risk tables and suddenly you wake up one day, and it's been two years and two months and eight days of the Global Pandemic, and even though the cases are rising (again), sometimes you just want to go to a damn party. 

The couple my husband and I were chatting with was the same couple we'd chatted with the last time we went to a party. It was three years ago, but it felt like yesterday, and at the same time, it felt like the distant past of a fragmented fever dream. Same hosts and same delicious food and same casual dressed-up-ness. We even picked up where we'd left off in the same conversation: the renovations we were doing on our new-old house. 

In the past I told the story of the previous owner's weirdo wooden board obsession and how much dismantling was involved, the various tools and screwheads (whatever the proper terminology is) and the couple seemed interested, the wife, a writer friend, even going so far as to volunteer her services, and my husband and I threatening to take her up on this, but then, alas, it was fall and winter and then came the pandemic.

We dismantled it all ourselves, we told them in the present, one of our main projects during the lockdown. But it did make me want to dial back, go into the past, to a different timeline where there was no pandemic, and the only thing to worry about was dismantling weirdo wooden structures, and in this timeline we'd invite the couple over to help.

Another writer friend entered the sunroom and the conversation morphed into book banning, another thing I wish could take place in an alternate timeline. I want to listen to these people, the writer friend said. Just, hear what they have to say, or do you think they're too dug into their position? 

My husband, quiet up to this point, was the one who answered. Two things, he said, and he leaned forward seriously. 

First thing, when I'm at work and training people, it's understood that 30 percent of the trainees will be on board and gung ho about everything. Forty percent are in the middle and can swing either way. And the other 30 percent wants no part of whatever you have to teach them. So, forget them. They'll either come around or they'll move on. 

And thing two? 

He stretched his leg out and pulled up the hem of his pants. Socks, he said. I've noticed that the men here are wearing colorful socks. 

He didn't mention anything about alternate timelines or a world where there wasn't a crazed segment of society clamoring for book banning, or a pandemic and the fact that we were (possibly?) all risking our lives attending this party, and okay, maybe it was just me, overthinking it, how I tend to, 

but when the other guys in the circle stuck their own legs out and revealed their socks, I snapped a picture and froze us for the moment into this timeline, 

which, for better or worse, is likely, the only one we have. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The world is broken the world is beautiful

and I am trying to make sense of it. The white supremacist man who murdered ten people at a grocery store yesterday. The lovely writer friend who offered me seedlings from her garden. Six tomato plants. Two zucchinis. Two cucumbers and one chamomile. I really love that chamomile. I went to a rally

with my husband. The last rally for reproductive rights I attended I was with my daughter. Several hundred people gathered outside the Ohio Statehouse, a woman from Planned Parenthood waving her megaphone, telling us: "Next time, come back with your boyfriends, your husbands, your fathers, your brothers." This time the men are here. This time there are several thousand of us. 

Some of the men wear rainbow vests that read Clinic Escort. It makes me want to cry when people show up for each other. My friend had all of the carefully potted and labeled seedlings waiting for me when I came to collect them. I say, my friend, but the truth is I hardly know her. A few years ago she gave me an aloe plant. She'd read a blog post I'd written about a weird encounter I had with an aloe juice salesman in Prague and offered the plant to me. I take back what I said about not knowing her. I know this: she is a giver of plants. 

My husband held my sign for me at the rally when my arm got tired. He was hot and his back hurt, but I was the one who said it's okay, we can go now. My sign is the same one I take to all the rallies. A stop sign with the word NO. Here is one way I have of making sense of things: Hold up my hand to everything that is terrible and refuse to consent to it. White supremacists with guns. Deluded people who want to tell others what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.

The man who murdered the people in the grocery store was an eighteen-year-old forced birther. In his "manifesto" he raged about how white women need to give birth to 2.6 babies or be replaced as a race. The world is broken the world is beautiful and I am trying trying trying to make sense of it, 

but what if there is no sense of it? What if it's only us, here, now, in all of our brokenness and beautifulness? After the rally I went to work at the library. I stashed my NO sign in the back seat of my car. I packed up all of my extra seeds and filed them in the library seed exchange. 

It isn't much, but I like to imagine later this summer, my flowers growing wherever strangers have planted them.  

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Notes on Rage

I never had an abortion. But if I'd found myself in the situation, I might have had one, when I was fifteen. Fifteen, I was a messed up little fool. Fifteen, I was still a child myself. But as messed up, foolish and young as I was, I was old enough to know that I was not yet ready to be a mother. 

There'd been a scare in my childhood friend group that hammered the point home. The girl almost died of pre-eclampsia when she was delivering her baby. I went to the hospital to see her with another friend and we were turned away. We were too young, the nurse told us. Apparently, you had to be eighteen or in the company of an adult to visit the fifteen-year-old, nearly dead, new mother. 

By then, I was already noticing the unfairness, the inconsistencies. A discussion in the news of a pregnant girl who was kicked out of the National Honor Society at her high school for showing poor leadership. A commenter pointed out that maybe the girl had shown strength and courage for choosing to keep her baby, despite the obvious difficulties and shame. The spokesman for the school said the girl was a bad role model and shouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place. 

There was no mention of the boy in the equation. Presumably, he got to remain in the National Honor Society.

Another reminder: the girl in my own Catholic high school who was expelled after accusing several boys on the baseball team of raping her. Slut who had it coming to her was the general opinion of the school. I was sitting in the library right outside the principal's office the day the girl and her parents came to empty out her locker. I could hear her sobbing, the cries turning defiant and reverberating across the hall and into the quiet library, and then a screamed out Fuck you that I still remember forty years later. The anguish in it. The rage.  

I feel that same mix of anguish and rage now. 

I don't want to argue with you about abortion. I suspect that whatever your position is, it's firm. I also suspect that if you disagree with me that women should have agency over their own bodies, that they should have the right to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy, to plan when they will have children (or not), I won't be able to change your mind, and anyway, you've probably already quit reading. 

Good. Whatever. 

To everyone else-- what can we do? Vote. Well, yes, of course. March. Sure. I'll march. But I'm wondering if this is enough. We've voted. We've marched. And yet, HERE WE ARE. There's an interesting article in the Atlantic about Ireland and the fight to overturn their punitive and restrictive pro forced-birth laws. The movement gained momentum in 2012 after a 31-year-old woman who was seventeen weeks pregnant was denied a medically necessary abortion and died from sepsis. [Pro-"lifers," if you're still here, before you say it. No. It was not God's will. Not unless you believe God grants life or death based on whether a person goes to a hospital in Ireland or in England] 

What I liked about the article was how the women in Ireland fought back. Three, in particular, who were well past child-bearing age, bought abortion pills online and then presented themselves at the police station to be arrested. One of the women joked that she could catch up on her reading in jail. The thought was: What? Are you going to arrest everyone? 

I'm thinking that this method of protesting might work for me. I have a lot of reading to catch up on myself. A long list of books that the same people who want to ban abortion are now threatening to ban. 

I don't know if they will hear me, hear us, the middle-aged women, the childbearing women, the girls, and all of the men who love us. If they could, though, I would tell them this: 

I never want to go back to when I was fifteen years old. But if I did, this time I would rise up out of my seat in the silent library. I would march into the hallway to join the girl who was screaming. I would scream with her for a moment and then I would take her hand and walk with her out of the dark school and into the light, where all of our friends are waiting. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Spring has sprung and deer saunter through my neighborhood

eating the tulips. On walks with my dog, I see them grazing in front yards and hurry past, afraid they'll see us and attack. Okay, not attack, exactly, but what if one of them startles and bolts and slams into me or tramples the dog? I've seen them do that before. Not slam or trample, but startle and bolt. Once, on a walk with my daughter, 

when she and her dog were living here earlier in the pandemic, we saw a deer run, gallop, race--I don't know the proper deer-in-action lingo, but trust me, it was fast!-- as it crossed the street. "Oh my god," I said to my daughter after the danger had passed and the deer was casually munching on tulips in a different front yard, "that thing could've killed us!" 

She looked at me with a mixture of amusement and concern. Both dogs hadn't even noticed the deer. Which just goes to show... something. I'm easily startled? Readily spooked? It's true, my nervous system tends to be set on high alert. Especially during the pandemic. Are we still in the pandemic? Yes, no, maybe? At the library I have stopped wearing my mask, although several of my co-workers and some of the patrons wear theirs. 

A friend tells me she is a One Way Masker, and I like that description. I do still wear my mask when I am in crowded indoor places with dubious air quality. Not that I go into such places often. I got the fourth shot at the advice of my doctor. I took two home tests last week, worried that my allergies were maybe... not? 

Two years and nearly two months after This Whole Thing Started, it seems like those of us who've made it through unscathed, are weary, fending for ourselves, trying to pick up where we left off, but I don't know

can we? 

Sometimes I wonder if I am more scathed than I realize. The solution--and this I've learned after much trial and error--is escaping (into books, movies, binge-watching TV shows about people throwing pottery) and doing something physical (yoga, carrying books up and down the stairs at the library because the elevator is broken) and going outside (to walk the dog, dig up weeds, plant seeds). It is also, a dear friend reminded me recently, about connection and community. 

And speaking of seeds and connection and community, here is something lovely we are offering at our library. A seed exchange. 

How it works is you take a packet or two of seeds, and if you have extra seeds of your own, you can give some back. 

"But what if people just take the seeds," a patron asks me, "and never give anything back?" 

"I don't know," I tell her. "We have additional seed packets in our workroom. Other people will give back more. It'll all work out." 

She looks doubtful, but I know I'm right. At night I walk the dog and spy a deer in someone's front yard. I freeze, but the deer keeps munching as if we are not even here. The dog and I scurry by, unscathed.  

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Long weekend visiting old friends

people we haven't seen since before the pandemic, in a place we haven't visited in years before that, but here, we so easily fall back into the rhythm of our relationship, as if nothing has changed even as everything has changed. Let me tell you a story about this friend

a time when I was entangled in a toxic stew of a mess way beyond my paygrade (I was a volunteer) with people who had utterly confounded me, and one day after a particularly exhausting and maddening interaction, I found myself crying on the phone to her, and then, just as suddenly stopped

because I didn't DO that, cry in front of people, never mind spill out my guts, so I immediately apologized, and my friend said, gently, You don't have to apologize, Jody, you're my friend. Which actually got me crying again for a moment, because how kind that was, and what a gift, never mind a lesson in how to be a good friend. 

This time there is no crying, but lots of catching up and lively conversation. Also, we had to install the Little Free Library my husband had made for her and her husband. This is a new hobby of my husband's that started back in the fall when I asked him to build one for me and has morphed into him making several more, including two for an elementary school in our neighborhood. 

I am bragging about this here because I know he will never brag about himself but LOOK HOW ADORABLE THIS IS:

One of the topics I keep bringing up in conversation with everyone in my orbit is how do we make sense of Things, the utter craziness of the world lately, or really, forever, as some of us are only more recently waking up to it, and no one seems to know the answer. Sometimes, I confess, I can get quite emotional when I bring up this topic, and I immediately want to reel it back in, apologize, but this time

I don't, remembering who I am with. We are sitting on the front porch, drinking our coffee this morning, and one of my friend's neighbors walks by and comments on the new Little Free Library and how nice it is. It is warm and sunny and lovely outside and birds are singing all over the place and my friend shows me an app on her phone that can identify bird sounds, 

and then we go back to chatting and sipping our coffee and it occurs to me that there is no answer to my question because we can't make sense of things that don't make sense. 

And maybe that's okay, at least in this moment, when there are little free libraries and spring mornings and coffee and kind neighbors and singing birds and dear friends.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

One Sunday morning

in church and I was little, squirming in the polished pews, my baby brother crawling under the seats, popping up like a prairie dog between the other church-goers' feet, the irritated sighs and judgmental whispers, and no one in my pew capable of fixing the situation. Embarrassed, I stalked outside and did flips on the metal railing by the rectory until a priest caught me and asked why I was skipping mass, 

but how could I verbalize back then my shame? For my brother who was too young to feel it. For my parents who were old enough but didn't seem to feel it either. And who else was going to take on the feeling but me, and what an expert I became at that. Regardless, 

it wasn't a good reason to miss mass, so the priest led me back inside the church, and that was double the shame. Triple. Quadruple. The mortification blooming, swelling, replicating like a virus. Be kind to them, he told me. Forgive them. 

I did. I did. Still, sometimes I wish he'd said be kind to yourself too, for you are also worthy of forgiveness. That lesson took half a lifetime to learn and it didn't happen in church. This morning 

the two newborn mourning doves in the nest on the back porch bob their small heads, their parents, good parents, close by and mindful. My husband coos at them, and after a beat, they coo back. God only knows what they are saying, but isn't it lovely, the song.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Yesterday it graupled again

Graupel is a word I've just learned. Basically, it's a version of snow-sleet-hail. On a spring walk with the dog, the sun shining when we set out, then turning, the dark clouds moving in, spitting the strange mixture out. It bounced off my coat sleeve and off the dog's head. Soft pellets that remind me of styrofoam balls, and I can't help thinking about the end of the world, like the pictures my son sent me from San Francisco when the city was surrounded by burning fires and the sky went orange.

When was that? I search the word orange in my journal and find this entry on September 10, 2020: "the light is orange and eerie. [My son] told me a few days ago that he and his girlfriend have jugs of water in the car and are ready to go at a moment's notice. He said, if we go, we'll just keep going and never go back." 

I had forgotten he told me this. Something handy about keeping a digital journal is that I can do a word search for anything. Orange, for example. Or my mother. Holidays. The dog. Places I traveled. Lettuce. And every kind of weather--and instantly find my thoughts on whatever topic going back nearly twenty years. 

For the past several weeks I've been reading David Sedaris's collection of diary entries. David Sedaris is a serious journal writer and I love him for it. His first set of published entries can be found in the collection Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) and his latest is A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003–2020). The entries cover the mundane: overheard conversations, recipes, how much money he earned at odd jobs--

to the serious: his mother's cancer, his troubled relationship with his father; and in between, lots of funny and absurd encounters and observations. He says in the introduction that he could've chosen any number of entries to include and given a totally different sense of himself--as someone more stupid or generous or selfish or sensitive. "On any given day," he says, "I am all of these things and more."  

The same year of the orange sky, our next door neighbor climbed a ladder and took down the orange painted shutters on our new-old house. I made cranberry-orange nut bread with my daughter when she was living with us during the lockdown. One day my mother brought over some oranges and an open package of figs.

I wrote: "I don’t understand the fig thing. She said she didn't want them. Not sure why she wouldn’t throw the rest of the package out. This is interesting to me. She and her siblings were raised in a poor household and now, 75 years later, they’re still anxious about waste. It makes me wonder how long the effects of covid will last. Kids growing up now—what will it do to them fundamentally? Crowds, hand washing, coughing, masks?" 

I forgot that I had written this too. It's a weird feeling keeping a journal for so long. Regularly since 2007, but before that, sporadically, going all the way back to when I was nine years old. I wrote for myself, or sometimes I envisioned a Future Me reading, and now, I guess, I am the Future Me. 

In two years, five, I imagine myself doing a word search for graupel. It won't show up at all until April, 2022. And then, maybe I will never write about it again. 

Or maybe it is only the beginning of our strange weather.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

First Seeds

It snowed two days ago, but today I am planting lettuce. Years of pushing seeds in the ground and I still think there's something magical about the first shoots poking up out of the dirt. A month from now, two? I will be collecting whole salad spinners worth of leaves and if that's not a sign of faith, hope, love, I don't know what is. The world keeps whirling.

The mourning dove that (stupidly, ignorantly, kindly) sat on a cowbird egg last year, is back and possibly about to hatch another cowbird. Every time I open the back door to let the dog out, the two of us look at each other. Not the dog. The bird. Her eyes are glassy and wide and I have never seen them closed. Always vigilant. So, we have that in common.

For a year I have been writing pieces of something that could be a memoir. The process is like digging around in the dirt. What's down there? What should I leave right where it is? What needs to be lifted out, exposed to the light? The truth is I don't know.

The truth is I have something to say, but I'm not sure I should say it. But when has that ever stopped me? My plan for planting the lettuce is to clear the moldering leaves from the hard, packed ground. See what lies beneath. Draw lines with my finger in the dirt and drop the seeds. It may take the entire afternoon, but I'm in no hurry. It takes time to plant,

time to hatch a cowbird, time to write the truth.      

Sunday, March 27, 2022

You can't take it with you

Just as I was waking up this morning, the two books I've been reading merged together in my mind and I had a lightning bolt moment of insight that made so much sense to me, I immediately wanted to write it down. The common theme is people in the second half of life, and what do you do with the knowledge that you are slowing down while the world is still speeding along? Resist 

or accept? Take my hair, for example. During the pandemic I stopped getting it colored, and slowly, my naturally darker hair came back, but with strips of white and gray along the sides of my face, the overall effect some might call the "Madwoman in the Forest Look," but then my daughter said it was cool, and anyway, who cares, Mom? It's not like you're going anywhere, seeing people. 

But now I am, sorta, going places, seeing people, and I've decided I don't really care, It's hair. Whatever. Still, every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of myself and think, Who is that? 

Me. But suddenly, older. Old. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Even so, it's different. You spend half your life working toward something, accumulating stuff, planning for some distant future, coloring your hair, and the next thing you know... 

maybe you don't want to do any of that anymore? 

Or maybe you don't have the energy or you forgot why you wanted some of those things you used to want so badly or you look around at the world and think This is Crazy and Awful, and maybe it was always this way but you didn't see it before because you were... busy? And now you have all of this time to think about it, except, 

you don't, really, have ALL OF THIS TIME, do you? 

Anyway, the two books I've been reading are:

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas, which is about a fifty-eight year old woman, who until recently, felt that she was on the top of her game, mentoring students at a small liberal arts college where she is a professor, keeping up with the changing times, adjusting happily to her grown daughter being out of the house, but then, her husband is accused of having affairs with several of his students and suddenly all eyes are on our main character, the campus swirling with rumors, judging her as complicit in her husband's escapades or as the foolish, dowdy, cast-off wife. 

Enter: Vladimir, the new hunky young(er) professor, and now our aging main character wonders if it's too late for her to have her own affairs, her own adventures, or is she past her prime?

The second book, From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, by Arthur C. Brooks is about very successful people and how hard they work and continue to strive as they get older, not wanting to face their inevitable decline, and then either doubling down on the work and the striving, running in the rat race until the bitter end 

OR switching gears and finding a different kind of fulfillment. There are all kinds of fun examples of people who pushed themselves right up to death and were miserable and people who took different paths and were more content, the ludicrousness of accumulating stuff when you can't take any of it with you, but how human it is to want to keep pushing and taking, and how all of that is really about our fear of dying. But what-are-ya-gonna-do? 

Don't worry, the book has the answer: Stop coloring your hair. (haha just joking. You'll need to read the book yourself to find out.) 

So, I don't know how these two books melded in my mind this morning as I was waking up, but they did, for just a second, hover there together, making me think I had some great new understanding about life and the inevitability of death and getting old, and also, at the same time, about fighting getting old and pretending I'm not going to die. 

Unfortunately, it slipped away from me and now we're all going to have to figure it out for ourselves. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Car Show: A Love Story

I hate the Columbus Ohio Car Show, but my husband loves it, so every year--well, every year except for the past two pandemic years--we go. Usually, it's my birthday present to him. The tickets, dinner out first, and then down to the convention center for a stroll through the new cars. 

Part of the gift is that I'm a good sport about it. At least I try to be, not blurting out, for example, how much I hate the car show even though while I'm strolling through the car show, that's sometimes a thought that will pop into my head. This is what we do for the people we love and who love us. Go with them, sometimes, to the places they love, even when we hate those same places. 

It helps that in previous years of the car show, the ticket takers hand out a scavenger hunt-- a list of car parts and features to find while you're doing the strolling. If you find all of the car parts and features, you can enter a drawing to win prizes. I don't care about the prizes, but I do get a weird kick out of doing the scavenger hunt and so does my husband, and every year, pre-pandemic, he'd have a great time, and I'd surprise myself by having a great time too. 

Cut to: 

The car show was last week and after I got home from work, my husband was finishing up work himself and all fully dressed up and we were ready to go, and I don't know what made me do this, but I checked the dates again, and it turns out


It got cancelled, but the people who run the event never updated their website. I don't want to tell you about the sad expression on my husband's face. 

Let's go look at cars at a car place, I said, and my husband brightened right back up. 

For the record, I hate looking at cars at car places even more than I hate looking at them at the car show, but at least the car show has a scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, we actually are in the market for a car this year. 

Do I need to mention that I am probably the worst person in the world to go car shopping with? But now my husband was the one being the good sport, talking up the various car possibilities for me and the fun cool features I could have. Things like back up cams and keyless starts and heated seats or whatever. None of which I really want or need. Although, I do have to admit that I did appreciate the heated seats in his car when I was leaving work a few weeks ago and had to scrape ice and snow off the windshield with my bare hands and then sat inside shivering for a few moments before I remembered: HEATED SEATS!

We went to several car places and it was becoming clear that this may not be the right time to have to buy a car. Actually, it's possible that this is the worst time ever to buy a car. We strolled through car lot after car lot where the car salespeople pointed out all of the cars we could NOT buy--

the new cars that had waiting lists and the used cars that were already purchased, and I was growing more and more despondent and having sad wistful feelings about how I could've been strolling around instead at the car show.

But this story has a happy ending after all because my husband did manage to find me a car and finagle a deal for us without too much trouble. It even has heated seats! And suddenly, I realize as I write this that it's not a story about how much I hate car shows. It's a story about how much I love the guy who loves car shows.

Throw in a scavenger hunt and we'll both live happily ever after.

The End. 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Bare-faced Brunch

It's almost spring, never mind the snow on the ground. The pandemic is over, everybody says. Today I am going out to brunch with a friend. 

Yesterday my husband and I ran errands like we used to in the Before Times. Columbus lifted the mask mandate a few days ago, but my library has hung onto our masks-required-for-employees rule until tomorrow. Tomorrow, I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

Errand number one is the post office, and I see a guy walking out bare-faced and decide, Oookay, here I go, mask-less myself. But when I walk inside, the handful of people in line are masked and so is the clerk, although, she's wearing hers like a chin strap. I fumble my mask out of my purse and put it on, and when I reach the counter, the clerk's got hers on properly too. I don't know what to make of this. Peer pressure? 

Errand two is the pet store to buy the ridiculously expensive pet food we serve to our dog, who let me tell you has a very sensitive stomach and every time we go into the place and the cashier rings it all up, I can feel my husband tensing beside me and I remind him of the crazy high emergency vet bill we paid a few months ago and this is the food they recommended and we both take a breath under our masks, except this time, we're not wearing masks. 

We decided on the car ride over that we'd go with the flow, based on what the employees are required to do. 

No masks, on any of them. It's like this for the remainder of our errands, everything back to normal with the bare faces, but jarring to me. I realize that in most parts of the country (Tennessee, for example, where we visited my husbands' parents recently) the pandemic was Declared Over long ago. But up here in our little Columbus bubble, many of us are still paying attention to case counts and hospitalizations and the death rate. For example, for the past two weeks in Ohio, ninety-one people died every day from Covid. 

Which seems high? Except it's so much lower than the several hundred people a day average from last month, so we're all good now? I guess? 

When this is all over, a friend told me way back at the beginning, I never want to think about it again. I don't want to write about it. I don't want to read about it. As soon as it's over, I'm done. 

Well, yeah, I told her. Me too. For sure. 

Because believe me, I've been there with the wanting to forget, the frantic desire to move on, to let it go, to get on with it. I have been reading books on living through trauma, how it affects the mind, the body. And what has all of This been, but collective, mass trauma? The books have more to say about the After part, the part when the trauma's in the past, or we think it is. But I don't want to get into it with you right now. 

I'm taking a few extra moments to fix my hair before I leave for brunch. Scrounge around in the drawer where I keep my earrings.  Dab on a bit of make up, the first time I've done this in two years. Out the door and just watch me, I'll be baring my face like the best of them. 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

I'm a liar

Okay, maybe liar's not the right word, but sometimes when I write for you, I don’t tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For example, I tell you about how hot it is in the house, 

and not about the cigarette smoke swirling in the air. The Wordle my husband and I good-naturedly race each other to solve and not the times we snap and bicker. The dog I dote on and walk three times a day and not the one I had growing up who bit my mouth, my bottom lip swinging back and forth like a garden gate, the tooth-shaped hole straight through my cheek. The moral of the story is

don't kiss your dog. Except I kiss my dog now all the time and even when she's sleeping. Oh! the things that are clattering around in my head that I may never write about. It's not lying, exactly, but more like,  

selecting. What to leave in. What to leave out. Why write about a virus or a war or why I installed a deadbolt lock on my childhood bedroom door,

when it's tax season at the library, and Mrs. B has a list of dvds she wants me to search for, and it's a warm sunny day after weeks of cold and gray. I keep having flashbacks to the 1980's. The ever present possibility of global thermonuclear war. I'd forgotten that feeling of doom that maybe I'd never make it past my teenage years. But somehow, I did. We do, 

each one of us, what we have to do. In the meantime, a man needs help on the computer, and finally I've mastered the copier machine--how to email a scanned document and what a handy trick that is for our patrons. Look how much I read! 

a little girl squeals. She holds up her book to show me, her finger between the pages marking her place. 

Wow! I tell her. You've read all of that and you haven't even left the library yet!

I know! she says. And now I'm going with my little brothers to the park!

Wow! I say again, and I mean it. I want to go with her. But I have books to check in, books to check out. There will always be a virus, a war, a locked bedroom door. But today I watch a little girl clutching her book, skipping out of the library and into the warm, sunny park. 


Sunday, February 27, 2022

My husband and I are visiting his parents

and like always when we visit them, I get caught up in their family stories. My mother-in-law musing about sleeping upstairs in the house built by her father, the cracks in the roof exposing the sky, waking up with a dust of snow on her face. The family origin story of my father-in-law-- his grandfather's crossing from Denmark on a ship that sank, the week on a lifeboat, a daring rescue, the eventual settling in America and the birth of twenty-two children (My husband's grandfather was number 12.) 

I love these stories. The little tidbits and back-matter. The plant in the corner that came from a clipping of a plant grown by my father-in-law's mother. How when my mother-in-law talks about going upstairs in her childhood home, she means climbing a ladder. (I've been part of their family for thirty two years and I just now learned that detail.)  

My husband and I share our own stories with his parents, updates on our daughter's wedding and our son and his girlfriend's van-life cross country trip. Which, okay, seem a little trivial contrasted against the life and death of a ship going down, a childhood spent in abject poverty, but the grandparents, of course, are always happy to hear any stories about the grandchildren. 

For a few days, life slows down. Meals. A list of handyman jobs for my husband to do around his parents' house. Side note: they keep the heat on 75, and my husband and I are sweating up a storm and laughing about it, but after a while, we just decide to go with the flow, channel the word COZY. We can't stay very long and we'll soon be back to what we have now been told is our very cold house. 

65 degrees, my father-in-law had exclaimed. Is that what you keep your heat on?  

Meanwhile, against my better judgment I sneak peeks at the news on my phone. Stories about the new Supreme Court Justice nomination. Stories about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The stories make my head hurt. Did I mention how hot it is in this house?  

Oh, here's a story about the chickens the great grandmother kept, how she loved them so much she would cry every Sunday dinner when the family ate one. The frogs and turtles my mother-in-law's older brothers caught because some days, what else was there to eat? 

Our daughter has chosen a wedding dress. Our son and his girlfriend found themselves in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Did you know, he texts me, that anyone can march in the parade if they want to? We share the pictures with the grandparents. The lovely dress. Our son draped in colorful plastic beads.  

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Cynic Aroma Caulk

If you do the Wordle each morning, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, Wordle's a game where you get six chances to guess a five-letter word. Pretty much everyone I know is doing it lately. My husband, our grown kids, old friends, new friends. It's rare that so many people in my life are on the same page. 

Is it the brain teaser aspect of it that we love? Or the competition? Or maybe it's that perfect blend of challenge and tension, followed by the joyful burst of adrenaline upon completion. We can always use another moment of joy. 

This morning, for example. Off for a walk with the dog, and I notice that someone has cleaned nearly all of the books out of my Little Free Library. Maybe there's an innocent explanation, but several streets over, I find another library emptied out too, and this one with the door left banged open.

What if they needed those books for something important? my husband, god love him, asks me. 

Like what? I say. I'm picturing the culprits roaming the neighborhood in search of little free libraries to snatch from so they can sell the goods on eBay. I want to be the kind of person who gives people the benefit of the doubt, and not the kind who writes a strongly worded petty letter, demands to see the manager, whines about the service. 

Maybe it's because I'm getting older. Getting older, I've heard, and the world inevitably shrinks. We get caught up in the silly drama. Forget our better selves. Giver



Maker or … I can’t think of a five-letter word for the opposite of make. 

Oh, duh! Break. 

Back from my walk and I restock my library. I shouldn't have used the word inevitable when I was talking back there about the world shrinking as we age. It’s only inevitable if you say the word, and I don't. Won't. Something else-- I have a ton of extra books. 

I drive them over to my neighbor's and fill the empty space.  

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Moving rocks around my yard

is like revising a piece of writing. Or rather, I guess I should say, revising a piece of writing is like moving rocks around my yard. I don't know how to talk about the writing process except by comparing it to some other activity, otherwise it sounds like this: I wrote a thing. I took it apart. I put it back together. Let me tell you about the rocks instead.

What happened was we moved into our new-old house and there was a koi pond in the backyard and we didn't want a koi pond in the backyard. Like all of the projects in our new-old house, taking out the koi pond ended up being a much bigger deal than I would've imagined at the start of-- let's call it the "Envisioning Stage." 

What I envisioned was not a koi pond but an herb garden. I thought it would take an afternoon, maybe two, to give away the fish, drain the water, empty out the rocks, fill the hole up with dirt and plant herbs. If it's not obvious yet, I was a ding dong. 

The actual process was longer and messier and possibly caused long term damage to my shoulder joints. It was the rocks that nearly did me in. My initial plan was to move them out of the way slightly, just enough to get at the rubber liner underneath. Cut away the lining and nudge the rocks back into the hole. 

But the hole went down so deep and there were so many layers of rocks. Some were more like boulders. Some were the size of gravel. Some was sand. Lots of sand. And where the hell was the liner? Several days into the project, without realizing it, I'd created a precarious wall of rocks just outside the mucky former koi pond, and there I was in the center, still digging in the mud. 

To avoid an avalanche on myself, I started moving the rocks into the driveway, first just to get them out of the way, but later, in an attempt to see what I had. How many rocks were there? What were their various sizes and shapes? A few of the rocks were interesting. Maybe I'd want to keep them for some future gardening project? Cut to: I lost myself in a several-weeks-long digression of rock organization. 

Winter came. 

The hole filled up with rain and froze, the rocks still piled up in the driveway. I was sick of looking at them. In spring I thought I might be ready to try again, but the weather was sucky. It rained a lot. Or I'd have to work. On a rare, free, weather-cooperating day, I'd climb into the hole and chuck out a rock or two, but my heart wasn't really in it. The project was starting to seem stupid. 

And then we had a global pandemic, and I needed something to think about besides the global pandemic. Why not finish digging up the remainder of the damn rocks? Cut out the liner and shove everything back in once and for all. It took a good month in which I swore a lot and pinched my fingers and scraped my legs and tried to ignore the disturbing-sounding pops and creaks emanating from my shoulder joints. 

When I was finished, a friend from work brought me herb clippings from her garden, and we stood awkwardly facing each other while properly socially distant in my driveway. The garden surprised me by taking off on its own, the small clippings rooting and spreading out to fill the space and beyond. Sometimes I sit out on the patio and try to remember the hole, the rocks-- all of that raw hard work, but truthfully, it's kind of a blurry memory, thank God. 

Anyway, this is the long way of saying that I'm halfway (who am I kidding? I'm not anywhere near halfway! Haha!) into the revision of a writing project, and all I can see in front of me are the rocks, but whatever. 

If moving rocks has taught me anything, it's that if I keep digging through them and flinging them around, eventually I'll end up with a lovely herb garden. 

The end. 


(This is where I am now) 

(The future)

Sunday, February 6, 2022

My son's girlfriend made me fleece pajama pants

and I love them. They're cozy and perfectly fitted and she added pockets in the front and carefully stitched my name across one. Truth be told I haven't taken these pants off except to go to work and lucky me, the library was closed for two days due to a snowstorm, so I was able to get even more wear out of them. I am all about comfort these days. It's cold out there. (See: snowstorm), 

and mostly we're stuck inside. Even the dog doesn't want to do our three-times-per-day walks. I wish she had told me this before I spent fifteen minutes bundling us both up, me in my layers of outwear and the dog in her sporty jacket, but three steps out the door, and she was glaring up me like, Immediately No.

Ah well, it is warm inside, and for several days, there's lovely company, my son and his girlfriend who are presently van-life-ing across the country, stopping for a visit with us along the way. The first night I complimented my son's pajama pants and barely an hour later, I was presented with a pair of my own. She's MYOG-ing for you, my son explained.

MYOG, if you're not up on the lingo, means Make Your Own Gear. In addition to clothing, his girlfriend makes bags of various sizes, intricately sewn and handy for carrying whatever you might need on cross-country trips. I love this for them, the sewing, the cross-country-traveling, but I realize lately, I am happy to stay where I am. Maybe this is a GOT 

(Getting Older Thing) or maybe I'm just more content with simple pleasures, curling up on the couch to read books and doing the Wordle in competition with my husband each morning, (Okay, it's NOT a competition. We just each do the Wordle and then gloat at each other when one of us solves the puzzle faster), binge-watching Netflix shows and making more dinners at home. Oh, and here's something fun:

friends of ours sent us a gift box subscription to a drink of the month club, where you get all of the elements to stir up a drink and the first box came and it looked like an elaborate chemistry experiment, complete with vials and adorable little spritzer bottles. Why do I feel like we are all fiddling while Rome burns, people dying from the virus, the crazy conspiracy theories and threats of book bannings, and what ridiculous privilege I have to burrow away in my warm house, 

wearing my lovingly made homemade flannel pajamas and snuggling up with my finicky dog. Some days, most days I don't see how to balance it, the wider world with my inner one and how lucky I have been and how can I possibly give back, and my only answer seems to be: 

It is February and I am here. My husband stirs up the drink concoctions, and we clink glasses with our son and his girlfriend before they continue on their way. 

WMTA (We miss them already.) 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

I don't know the people who live across the street

or the people who live behind me, although I do notice them sometimes, letting their dogs out, puttering around in their yards, someone's child shrieking in play, but if I did run into any of these people, say, at the grocery store, I wouldn't recognize them as neighbors, 

which I never thought about before until the other day when I read this disturbing story in the news about people in Ukraine preparing for war--not soldiers, but just regular people trying to live their lives--and this came down to stuff I'd also never thought about, like, what should we do if the water gets turned off suddenly and do we have a way to heat our home and what about cooking, charging our phones, dealing with injuries, medicine... 

The story went on, with comments from other places where people had gone through similar horrifying experiences, and then someone wrote, Forget about all of that-- the heating sources and food and medicine-- your first order of business is Find your community, 

the actual human beings who live around you, because when the shit hits the fan and communication goes down and the power snaps off, those are the people you're going to have to depend on for help. Those are the people you will help in return. So, okay, maybe I'm in trouble, 

only knowing the immediate neighbors on each side of me, but not the people who live in the houses across the street or in the houses behind me, their backyards touching mine but obscured by fences, even with all of the dog walking I do, the long meanderings up and down streets, the dog snuffling out the free dog treats-- where is the actual human connection? I don't know, except here's something: 

one morning, early in the pandemic, I was out on my front porch, pajama-clad and with my coffee, the only person awake as far as I could tell, when suddenly walking down the center of the street were three deer, one of them huge and with the antlers, just ambling along, before traipsing off into someone's yard to graze on the hostas, so strange and out of place, I wondered if I'd just seen what I'd just seen, 

so I stepped off my porch, holding my coffee, and ambled into the street myself, noticing at that same moment a human person drifting toward me in their pajamas too and also a coffee drinker. We walked toward each other, and even with the ever-present virus on our minds, and silly in our pajamas, we clinked our coffee cups and said hello. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

My weather app says it's snowing but it's not snowing

Weird, because when I click on the radar, a blue blob hovers over my house. 

Outside my house, in reality, still, no snow. Someone's fallen down on the job. The weather person, the radar man, the sky. Five years ago I joined a crowd of 500,000 people in the DC streets, so many of us you couldn’t see where we began or ended, the group I was with holding hands so we wouldn’t lose ourselves. I have never been a part of something so massive, for one brief moment 

the bodies around me lifting my feet off the ground, the swell of voices, my heart. I thought something transformative had happened, but when it was over, we unclasped hands and went our separate ways. Driving home we ate at a quiet hotel restaurant, our pink knitted hats tucked away in our small suitcases and the world kept turning, snowing 

when the weather app said it was snowing, or not, and no apologies either way. Who is in charge of this place? Not me that's for sure, but once I was a person who packed a knitted hat, took to the road. Look. In the time it took me to write these random thoughts, snow has started to fall. Outside 

the world, finally, rightly, catching up with the radar. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022


Another day, another mask-less patron at the library explaining to me why masks don't work. I'm sitting at the desk, nodding how I always do during one of these confrontations. The patron has just come out of the bathroom and has just washed his hands. I know this because when he comes up to the desk, shaking his wet hands, he announces:

"I just washed my hands." 

"Good to know," I say, nodding. 

"People used to make fun of me for being a germaphobe," he says. 

"You were ahead of the trend," I say, nodding. 

"Exactly." He smiles and touches his bare face with his freshly washed hands and launches into a rant on the worthlessness of masks. Something something microbe particles. Something something Dr. Fauci, and I keep nodding.

I glance over at my co-worker. She is nodding politely too, while at the same time doodling up a storm. She's a big time doodler. 
"I had covid." The patron says. "January 2020. It wasn't a big deal and now I'm completely fine." 

"Wow," I say, "you're so lucky." I'm sorta messing with the guy now and I'm not proud of it. It's the situation. How absurdist it is. Nearly two years into a global pandemic and here we are. The signs on the door to the library that say PLEASE WEAR A MASK. The maskless patrons parked out at the computers, one of them presently coughing up a lung. 

I'm going to catch this. It's a miracle I haven't already. This week alone three people I know have gotten sick. I send them soup. I should be a paid spokesperson for this soup company. Paging SPOONFUL OF COMFORT people: let me be your official influencer in Columbus Ohio. Meanwhile, I am second-guessing every one of my sniffles, every twinge of throat scratchiness, every sneeze. 

I take a home test. It's negative. But can I be... positive that it's negative? I read all the health articles in the news. They range from: We're All Going to Get This! to Try Not to Get This! I wonder if I should be more afraid. But the truth is I am long past being afraid. This is the world now. 

"Forget masks." The patron is still going on. "You want to know what the secret is?" He leans over my desk. 

I scoot my chair back and nod. 


The laugh bursts out of me before I can stop it, and then I apologize. "Good to know," I tell him. He walks off, and I reflexively reach for my hand sanitizer. "What the hell is a nutricicle?" I whisper to my doodling co-worker. 

"No idea," she says. She's finished with her doodle. She holds up the picture, and we both laugh into our masks. 

                                        --artwork by Emma Root

Sunday, January 9, 2022

In the moment

Ten minutes before the library closes, I take a call. What time do you close tonight? The caller asks me. 

Five o’clock. 

A pause. Oh, she says. Do you think I can make it if I leave now?  

I muffle a laugh. Lady, I think to myself. I have no idea where the hell you are. Honestly, I have no idea where I am most of the time. Here, of course, but not always. Not really. I’m working on this! It’s one of my New Year’s Resolutions. 

Be in the moment.  

Over the years I’ve resolved to work on variations of this same theme. Be present. Be IN the present. It's a tough one for me. I tend to drift off. Daydream. Sometimes disappear entirely. I used to think it was a funny quirk of my personality. But it’s not actually all that funny. It’s an adaptive mechanism, a response to trauma, something that once served me well, for safety purposes, when I needed to disappear. Now, though, I’d like to stay.

Stop forever rummaging around in the past. Stop always worrying over the future. Hold the moment I’m inhabiting and just, I don’t know, settle into it. Is that a thing? I tell the caller the library’s hours of operation and invite her to visit us in the morning. Ten minutes later, my co-workers and I are shutting down and heading out to our cars. 

Someone’s been inside my car. The seat is pushed back all the way and… I have a full tank of gas? I remember that my husband told me he’d come by during my shift and take the car to wash it. If there is a more romantic gesture than this, I can’t think of one right now. Home, and he’s already picked up dinner. After we eat, we watch our new favorite show, Emily in Paris. 

This is such a dumb show, and yet, my husband and I have binge-watched the entire first season in the past three days. The premise is an American girl, who doesn’t speak French, goes to work in Paris for a year. She’s a complete ding dong, but she’s adorable and her clothes are very fashionable and all of the French people she works with are varying degrees of crappy to her, but slowly she wins them all over by being so cluelessly joyful and charming and gushing over everything French. 

Maybe it’s all the bright colors and the lovely scenery of Paris and the sitting out at cafes and everyone drinking wine and/or eating French pastries. Watching the show makes me want to travel again and eat croissants and learn how to speak another language. 

Oh my God, I turn to my husband, Couldn’t you just so go for a croissant right now? 

A pause. How about a Triscuit? he says. 

That’ll do. We eat Triscuits and watch another episode of Emily in Paris. I speak to the dog for the rest of the night with a French accent and she looks at me like I’m a complete ding dong. 

This being in the present moment thing… I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. 

The dog also enjoys watching Emily in Paris

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Driving home through fog and this is not a metaphor

but actual fog, a thick curtain of mist. Actually, it's more like a cloud. And there I go already, speaking in metaphors. The thing is we want to believe that we know where we are going. The lines on the highway, the GPS. But this fog is impenetrable. Two nights ago my family was all together for the first time in more than two years. It was remarkable in its absolute ordinariness. 

Walking the dog with my son. Browsing a bookstore with my daughter. A cup of coffee. A puzzle. We have to take pictures, I kept reminding my husband. How else can we hold this moment? A card game. A bottle of wine. We’d planned this trip for months, but a week before we left, the risk seemed almost too high. 

All of the moving parts and pieces and potential virus vectors. Not just our own family coming together, but another family too. We didn't meet up last year. The first New Year's in twenty years apart. But here we are, taking a chance, even as so many people we know are sick, and everywhere we go, it is a changed world. 

The masks, the outdoor restaurant seating, the sanitizer stations at every store entrance. The weather itself, too balmy for winter coats, too warm even, for sweaters. But lovely for walking and outdoor dining. Just look at us adapting!

What are the odds we make it through unscathed? What are the odds we don't. I have never been good at math. In college Probability and Statistics was the only class I ever dropped. Still, I learned enough to know never to count on lottery tickets. At midnight we clink our glasses together in person, then drift outside to watch fireworks bursting above the tree line. 

Each one of us hugs each one of us before we part. On the way home the fog envelops the car for miles. But when it lifts, it's cold outside, just how it's supposed to be.